Thursday, October 29, 2009

TimmyG Changes His Mind, Sort Of

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Fox Business today tells us that TimmyG has re-thought the whole bail-out thing. Bailouts should only be offered to solvent firms and only as a last resort, he says now. Yep. He told Congress today that it turns out that loaning money to people who can't pay it back isn't a good idea. He says in part:

"Any firm that puts itself in a position where it cannot survive without special assistance from the government must face the consequences of failure"

He also testified that

"We cannot put taxpayers in the position of paying for the losses of large private financial institutions" and "the government did not want to provide a false impression that such firms would be protected from failure by the government in times of stress."

Didn't we already know that? Sure we did, but there must be an exception when the borrowers are Timmy's friends and the lender is his old employer and it's lending under his direction. Try searching for TIMMYG in this blog and see what we have written so many times.

TimmyG is the man who directed the $350 bil Wall St. bailout to firms that were under his direction when he was the director of the NY Federal Reserve. He okayed or ignored the massive AIG bailout and its compensation and bonus plans, supervised bank bailouts, auto industry nationalization and so much more. Remember, he has never had a private sector job that didn't involve consulting the government on financial issues. Based on that was been given authority over America's private business sector, even including the power to control wages of non-bail-out companies.

Now he tells us that his earlier ideas were, well, bad. That train has left the station, Tim.

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Remember Cash-for-Clunkers? Sure you do. Cost us $3 bil and ran out in a few days instead of the planned three months. That one., the car people, reports today that CfC accounted for 125,000 new car sales. Simple math, each new car sold cost American taxpayers $24,000. Average cost of the new cars, net of rebates? $25,248. Do you remember that the ONLY goal of CfC was to reduce carbon emissions? Finally, do you remember that I suggested we would be better off if the administration just gave $4k to anyone who turned in a clunker and let them buy a new car only if that fit into their plans? Simple math again, that would have cost us $500 mil instead of $3 bil and resulted in the same carbon reductions.

Some fraction of the attributable new car sales would have been lost, sure, but how much do you really care? $2.5 bil worth? Only if you owned a couple of car companies. Which you do, of course.

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Sort-of-unrelated note: Consumer Reports reports yet again that Chrysler products have the lowest reliability rating of any brand tested. 42% of GM models exceeded the reliability norm, 58% didn't. Didn't we know in our hearts that Ford, if the government would just stay out of their way, would exceed quality expectations? We did and Ford did.

Do you remember that Chrysler's merger with Fiat was supposed to result in world-class quality? Fiat got 35% of Chrysler... for free. Fiat is still so unreliable that they can't be sold in America. Good luck with that merger, Chrysler. Good luck with your 401(k)s, America.

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Say, did I mention that our car czar doesn't have any auto industry experience? No finance industry experience either. Nevertheless, US News and World Report tells us that we're about to slip GMAC another $5.6 bil. No, really. A minor disclaimer: GM only owns 49% of GMAC these days, but I digress. Here's some of the text:

The Detroit News reports, "The Treasury Department plans to inject up to $5.6 billion in new capital in GMAC -- the latest effort to help the auto finance giant, a government official confirmed late Tuesday." The government will accept preferred shares of stock in return. "The new government infusion would be on top of $12.5 billion in government support extended since December."

So why is this important? Allow me to repeat my first couple of paragraphs regarding TimmyG's testimony to congress TODAY:

"Any firm that puts itself in a position where it cannot survive without special assistance from the government must face the consequences of failure"

He also testified that
"We cannot put taxpayers in the position of paying for the losses of large private financial institutions" and "the government did not want to provide a false impression that such firms would be protected from failure by the government in times of stress."

It is impossible for me to reconcile the two reports. Maybe you can.

That flushing sound is your money.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Obama, Limbaugh and Us

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

The prez won the Nobel Peace Prize. That's fine with me. A lot of talking heads are getting air and print love for their remonstrations. Sounds phony. The protests, not the award. Well, the award no more than the ones they gave to Arafat and Gore. Arafat and Gore? I don't much care for Jimmy Carter, never have, but at least he did something they could point to. But I digress. It's the Nobel committee's business and none of my own. Never has been.

The Nobel is a distraction for the prez and for us. Let's keep our eyes on the ball, not the prize. I don't care much about Nobel Prizes or awards of any kind. Grammys, Oscars, Tonys, Best In Show, Outstanding Camper... all of them have agendas and none of them concern me. Way to go, prez, and congratulations on donating the $1.4 mil to charity. How many of your predecessors have done that? Now will you make some decisions about the war and the economy? Please?

Rush and his pals want to buy the St. Louis Rams NFL team. Again, not something that concerns me much. He's got the bucks and the interest, so why not? Lots more talking heads are getting even more air time than usual to present their case against Rush. "He's Rush!" is pretty much their position. Politically inflammatory, a contrarian and obstructionist in their world view. Their question seems to be "Why should a rich self-made man with strong opinions be allowed to buy a football team?" My question is, who cares? If Mark Cuban can own an NBA team then the character test for pro sports owners has been set low enough that Roman Polanski, much less Rush, could fit right in.

What links these two events? Fair question. It's this. We had no involvement in either of these decisions and no stake in the outcomes and we still insist on making statements as though we were involved. We're not. More than that, beyond voting we are likely never to be involved in decisions outside of the world we have created for ourselves. Even there we'll find a lot of room for attention and improvement if we honestly admit our shortcomings.

Freedom of speech? Sure, you've got all you'll ever need, but so what? Do we really think we should weigh in on Nobels or NFL ownership or any other distraction of the moment? Tend your own gardens, feed and protect those who depend on you and improve your own life, for them, for yourself and for your nation. If you are drawn to action, great, do something meaningful rather than carping at the meaningless.

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I can forgive Alfred Nobel for having invented dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.

George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cash for Clunkers - The Morning After

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Fox Business reports that September auto sales... suck big-time. GM is down 45%, Chrysler is down 41%. Wow, who could have seen that coming? Here's part of what I wrote in my August 9 column:

As a consequence, post c-f-c sales will be dismal and jobs will be lost.

And that's with the gummint forcing its new fleet purchases to its captive car companies, regardless of what the fleet managers say they need. Total car sales were down 4.8 million units. Ford, the remaining private American car company, was down only 5%. Go figure. Maybe there is something to be said for the private sector. If the two bailed-out car companies can't sell cars without taxpayer-paid incentives then they don't belong in the market. Oh yeah, and then we lose the $63 bil in bailouts. Do you care?

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The Wall Street Journal ran a story about an investigation into possibly improper payments to the NY Fed (hello, TimmyG) from Lehman's bankruptcy. Who could have seen that coming? Here's a comment in passing from my April 30 column:

Chrysler will either fail in bankruptcy or succeed by renegotiating or voiding its debt and contracts, including salaries, pensions and health insurance. A judge will decide and s/he won't prefer one group of same-class creditors over another.

But lo and behold, the judge did allow payments to junior creditors. TimmyG rigged the results of Lehman's bankruptcy so that the gummint would get money that it wasn't entitled to. That really irritated a bunch of those senior creditors and they want their money back. They are relying on the same creditor laws that apply to all of us, laws that TimmyG ignored when he made the loans and when he got some of the gummint's money back.

TimmyG's NY Fed lent Lehman $46 bil without any security. $46 bil is a LOT of money, at least here in Cottage Grove, Oregon. TimmyG's Fed's loans were behind all sorts of secured (and under-secured) creditors but he wanted to be paid ahead of them, in total disregard of the bankruptcy laws. In bankruptcy you get paid according to your creditor status. TimmyG's Fed's status was, well, think Confederate bonds.

I also wrote in the same blog, after TimmyG told us that the auto bailouts were really just loans and they were going to be repaid:

Now Chrysler is bankrupt and we have whatever creditor status we (the US gummint) are allowed, probably not "secured creditor" status because there was nothing left to secure our loans or otherwise give us a priority over other lenders. Since we were likely the last major lender, our money is just gone. Gullible junior creditors lose big time in most bankruptcies.

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Getcher new cars, hot new cars here, buy 'em now!!!

In my March 31 column I wrote:

Next up: Bailout loans get paid out as purchase incentives for suckers who buy cool new cars they can't afford. You heard it here first.

Really, I didn't want to be right, to be able to see that the bailouts are and always have been a government Ponzi scheme in reverse. But it wasn't that hard. In my April 30 column I also wrote:

The new spin is that the NEXT Chrysler loans must be repaid before Fiat completely takes over. Fiat? See my March 29 column. "New" taxpayer money will be repaid in that case, but not ALL taxpayer money. Fiat will get to keep the "old" money. It's a Ponzi scheme in reverse, paying off new investors with old investors' money. BernieM is smiling. We've been reverse-Madoffed. Hide the kids.

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We've had Cash-for-Clunkers and we're living through the predictable (and predicted) aftermath. Same for the bailouts. Now we're rolling out of bed, naked and ashamed, and TimmyG and his posse are still passed out all around us with big grins on their faces. We've been used and we know it. We could have said "No, don't do that, I'm afraid of the consequences", but we didn't. We went along because it seemed like a good idea at the time and besides, all the cool kids were doing it.

The Chicago Mafia always relied on its customers to like and want what it was doing to them.

Still does.

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Vote early and vote often.
Al Capone